aviation history

PIE: 5 Things We Love About St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport

The ‘5 Things We Love About…” series on Stuck At The Airport celebrates features and amenities at airports around the country and the world.

Today we land at Florida’s St. Pete – Clearwater International Airport (PIE).

Originally named Pinellas International Airport – that’s where the airport call letters PIE come from – the airport was renamed St-Pete Clearwater International in 1958 to capitalize on the airport’s location on tourist-friendly Tampa Bay, north of St. Petersburg.  

© James Borchuck 2010 (727) 420-5867

5 Things We Love About St. Pete – Clearwater International Airport (PIE)

Photo by James Borchuck

1. The art at PIE

The public art collection at PIE includes the 45-foot blown glass wall, SunSkySea, by Guy Kemper (above), glass vessels by Duncan McClellan, terrazzo floor tile inserts by Kelly Taaffe Noto and lots more.

2. PIE PUPS

The PIE PUPS program brings therapy dogs to the airport to help de-stress travelers. PIE also has new Bark Parks in the parking lots.

3. Family-Friendly Amenities

Bonus amenities at PIE includes a kid’s play zone designed by the Great Explorations Children’s Museum that features simulated flights and a lego table with airplanes. 

4. Local favorite Mazzaro Italian Market

Local favorite Mazzaro Italian Market has a branch at PIE featuring Italian hot and cold sandwiches and flatbreads and signature cocktails.

5. Aviation History

PIE airport’s location on Tampa Bay, north of St. Petersburg is credited as being the birthplace of commercial air transportation. 

On January 1, 1914, barely a decade after the Wright Brothers’ pioneer flight at Kitty Hawk, the first ticket for air travel was sold by the St. Petersburg-Tampa Airport line to a fare-paying passenger. 

St. Petersburg mayor A.C. Phiel (center in the photo below) paid $400 to be the first passenger on the St. Petersburg Tampa Bay Airport Line on a flight that marked the beginning of commercial air transportation. 

A replica of the Benoist amphibious airplane flown that inaugural flight is on display in the PIE baggage claim.

Courtesy Courtesy National Air and Space Museum Archives.

‘5 Things We Love About…” an airport near you

Fall travel doesn’t look like it is going to involve much flying. And we suspect that concerns about COVID-19 will mean that most winter adventures will have to be put on hold as well.

But that’s not stopping us from celebrating cool features and amenities at airports in our ongoing “5 Things We Love About…” series.

So far, we’ve profiled more than 30 airports. And we’re reminded of how proud each of these airports is to be serving and representing their cities.

While we work on putting together more airport profiles, take a moment to visit some that have been featured so far.

And please let us know if there’s an airport you’d like to see featured.

Albany International Airport (ALB)

Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS)

Boise Airport (BOI)

Boston Logan International Airport (BOS)

Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT)

Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD)

Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG)

Dallas Love Field Airport (DAL)

Denver International Airport (DEN)

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL)

Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (DFW)

Evansville Regional Airport (EVV)

George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH)

Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport (GSP)

Houston William P. Hobby Airport (HOU)

John Wayne Airport (SNA)

Long Beach Airport (LGB)

Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY)

Miami International Airport (MIA)

Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP)

Ontario International Airport (ONT)

Orlando International Airport (MCO)

Philadelphia International Airport (PHL)

Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX)

Portland International Airport (PDX)]

Reno-Tahoe International Airport (RNO)

San Francisco International Airport (SFO)

San Antonio International Airport (SAT)

St. Louis Lambert International Airport (STL)

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA)

Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA)

Wichita Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport (ICT)

Treasure trove of TWA toy planes in Kansas City, MO

A favorite find from our visit to Kansas City, MO a while back is the National Museum of Toys and Miniatures.

The museum boasts both the world’s largest collection of fine-scale miniatures and one of the largest collections of historic toys on public display.

If you had a favorite toy when you were a kid, it is likely on display at the museum.

There are many aviation-themed toys in the collection, but we’d love to jet on over now to see a new exhibit in the museum’s Hall of Collections.

On display are more than two dozen Trans World Airlines (TWA) toy airplanes from the collection of retired TWA pilot Cooper Weeks.

Here’s some of the TWA history shared on the sign by the exhibit:

The collection ..”harkens back to the heyday of the airline, one known as the Airline of the Stars. Initially formed in 1930, TWA became one of four major domestic airlines after World War II. The airline was headquartered in Kanas City, MO and in 1962 opened a hub for international flights at Idlewild (later known as John F. Kennedy) Airport in New York. TWAS was acquired by American Airlines in 2001.

STL: 5 Things We Love About St. Louis Lambert International Airport

[Updated August 30, 2020 with two ‘bonus’ items]

Our “5 Things We Love About…” series celebrating features and amenities at airports around the country and the world lands today at St. Louis Lambert International Airport (STL).

The airport is named in honor of Major Albert Bond Lambert, who learned to fly with the Wright Brothers and in 1911 was the first person in St. Louis to receive a private pilot’s license.

Keep in mind that some of the modern-day amenities we love at STL may not be available or accessible due to health concerns. We’re confident they’ll be back.

If we miss one of the STL features you love, be sure to leave a note in the comments section below.

And be sure to take a look at the other airports in the “5 Things We Love About...” series as well.

5 Things We Love About St. Louis Lambert International Airport – STL

1. The Historic STL Terminal

In 1956, famed Japanese-American architect Minoru Yamasaki’s iconic arched terminal opened at Lambert.

Yamasaki also designed the original World Trade Center in New York City and many other iconic buildings.

The signature terminal at STL was originally built as a multi-level facility with a grand ticketing hall topped with three 30-ft high domed, concrete vaults.

The STL terminal expanded in 1965 with a fourth identical dome.

That original mid-century design has been credited with influencing the designs for other iconic terminals, including the TWA Terminal at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York (now the TWA Hotel) and Dulles International Airport in Washington, D.C., both designed by Eero Saarinen. 

2. The art collection at STL

St. Louis Lambert International Airport (STL) has an art museum feel, with ten major works on temporary or permanent display in both terminals.

One of the most notable art pieces at STL is Zhu Wei’s China China bronze statue (above), on loan from the Gateway Foundation.

Here’s a sampling of some of the other artwork you’ll find at STL in the Lambert Gallery (in Terminal 1) and on Concourses A and C.

The Confluence, by Joan Hall. Gate C5 in Terminal 1


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Nucleic Life Formation – by Amy Cheng


3. STL’s Historic Black Americans in Flight Mural

August 2020 marks the 30th anniversary of the dedication of the impressive and important Black Americans in Flight mural.

The 5-panel mural is eight feet tall and 51 feet long. It pays tribute to African-American achievements in aviation from 1917 onward.

You’ll find it on the lower level of Terminal 1, outside of security, near Exit 11.

4. STL’s Red Rocking Chairs

Rocking chairs are one of the calming amenities travelers most enjoy when they’re stuck at the airport.

At some airports, the rockers are white or plain brown. Elsewhere, they’re painted by artists and each is different.

At STL Airport the rocking chairs are bright red and emblazoned with the STL logo.

Is it the cardinal red of the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team? Maybe. But these rockers are hard to miss and clearly very, very comfortable.

5. The bonus views

In the 1960s, Lambert International Airport was the home to a McDonnell Douglas facility that built the Gemini space capsule.

Today, there’s a Boeing plant on the STL property that builds the U.S. Air Force’s F-15 Hornet jet fighter, which can reach a maximum speed of Mach 2.5. The plant also produces the T-7 Air Force trainer jet and the Navy’s MQ-25 refueling drone.

Passengers landing at STL are sometimes treated to the sight of a military or Boeing test pilot making a vertical ascent.  

Like this:

Even more thing we love at STL Airport

Here are two extra bonus items we love at STL Airport: Vending Machines for Ted Drewes Ice Cream and the Glatz Monocoupe.

Ted Drewes Ice Cream Machines at STL

If you live in St. Louis – or have visited – you’re probably a fan of Ted Drewes frozen custard. Lucky thing, then, that there are four Ted Drewes vending machines at STL airport. Two are in the Southwest Airlines Terminal 2 near Gates E10 and E20. Two other machines are in the historic Terminal 1, by Gate A15 and Gate C15.

StuckatTheAirport.com first wrote about the arrival of the Ted Drewes vending machines at STL airport back in 2015.

The Glatz Monocoupe at STL

In STL Terminal 2 you’ll find a Monocoupe 110 Special on display.

The “Glatz” Monocoupe, as it is known, is on loan from the Missouri Historical Society and was manufactured by the Mono Aircraft Corporation of Moline, Illinois in March 1931. The plane has been on display at STL since 1998.

Did we miss one of your favorite features or amenities at STL? Be sure to leave a note in the comments section below. And let us know where our “5 Things We Love About …” series should land next.

Nellie Bly landing soon at Pittsburgh Int’l Airport

Nellie Bly – Courtesy Library of Congress

We take a short break from coronavirus coverage and anxiety today to give a cheer for Pittsburgh International Airport, which is celebrating Women’s History Month by putting a statue of legendary traveler and early investigative journalist Nellie Bly in the terminal.

Bly, the pen name for Elizabeth Seaman Cochran, grew up in Western Pennsylvania and in 1885 went to work for the Pittsburgh Dispatch, which is now the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. She moved to New York City in 1887 to work for the New York World and wrote a groundbreaking expose of the terrible conditions at a mental institution by posing as a patient.

In 1889 she set off for a trip about the world, determined to break the fictional record of Phileas Fogg, whose journey was described by Jules Verne in his 1873 novel, “Around the World in Eighty Days.”

Bly left Hoboken, New Jersey by ship and completed the trip in 72 days, 6 hours 11 minutes and 14 seconds, traveling by horse, rickshaw, sampan, burro and other vehicles along the way.

Courtesy University of Iowa Libraries

“Round the World” board game. Courtesy University of Iowa Libraries.

Her 1890 book chronicling the adventure is “Around the World in Seventy-Two Days.”

Pittsburgh International Airport already has two statues in the terminal: George Washington and Franco Harris, a legendary Pittsburgh Steelers player.

Those statues are stationed in the PIT terminal as promotions for the city’s Heinz History Center and are popular spots for selfies.

At the end of March, to mark Women’s History Month and the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage, the Heinz History Center will add Nellie Bly’s statue to the PIT terminal.

Courtesy PIT Airport. Photo by Beth Hollerich